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An Opening Statement by Patty Larkin

The goal of this project is to better define the contribution of women to the history of modern guitar. I have been asked repeatedly, "Why are there no great female guitar players?" The answer is, there are. Demographics are changing as young girls and women take up the instrument with increasing dedication and commitment to technique and repertoire. It is my belief that women guitarists of the past played a part in the evolution of the instrument and that their story is largely untold. I also believe that there are women guitarists today who are actively changing our preconceptions about gender and guitar heroes. This project is dedicated to these artists, past and present, waiting to be discovered, needing to be heard.

More On The Music

The CD is a snapshot of an ever-changing landscape. It is a glimpse of how women have influenced the guitar over time. An aural image in the feminine form. The women on this compilation are innovators and educators, alt types and concert hall performers, jazzers, blues players, composers and interpreters. They have been around for a long time, they just broke onto the scene, they are our archetypes and our future heroines. They are only the tip of the iceberg. To say that our research led us to hundreds of women players of the instrument would not be an exaggeration. We had the unenviable task of selecting from talent too numerous to mention, but too amazing to overlook. We ended up choosing the music and the stories and the history for what we now consider to be the first installment of La Guitara. Rather than marginalizing women guitar players or creating a circus oddity, our goal is to expose some of the most prodigious guitar talent that happens to also be female. As we began to research women and the guitar and the history of the instrument, we made a decision to create a collection of women instrumentalists from many different musical styles, and from many places around the world, including archival selections, to tell the story.

So, there's Sharon Isbin beginning classical guitar studies at age 9, studying with the masters, including the revered Andrés Segovia. There's Mimi Fox playing folk guitar when something shifts in an instant and she falls in love with jazz and never looks back. There's Kaki King playing drums throughout childhood and then returning to the harmonic pull and the percussive potential of six strings. There's Rory Block sitting in her dad's sandal shop in Greenwich Village in the 60s absorbing all of the nuances of a revived American folk music as John Sebastian and Geoff Muldaur trade songs. There's Wu Man, whose musical journey on the pipa spans centuries, breaking the sound barrier between ancient and modern. There's Muriel Anderson whose fingerstyle renderings and depth of repertoire tell of years of concentrated study and a passion for music that has no borders. There's Badi Assad, who decided to devote her life to the instrument and ended up creating her own genre of Brazilian music that includes voice, percussion and flights of fancy. There's Vicki Genfan, whose jazz and classical studies took her to a place where she composes music that encompasses the soul and lyrical beauty of the source. There's Ellen McIlwaine who grew up in Japan and then returned to the States as a teen and wondered why no one else heard the world music she heard humming in her head. There's Elizabeth Cotten, who could hear a tune once and play it, writing "Freight Train" as an adolescent, giving up the guitar only to return some 40 years later while working for the Seeger family who "discovered" her unique fingerstyle technique. There's Canadian Alex Houghton who started on classical and progressed to funk, combining her previous studies with her love of Prince. And there's Jennifer Batten, who wowed them on the Michael Jackson "Bad" tour, playing with inspired rock 'n' roll brilliance before 1.5 billion people during the Super Bowl halftime, who had looked for role models as a young player and ended up becoming one herself. And then there's Memphis Minnie, of whom it has been said "the novelty of a guitar toting woman blues singer was soon replaced with respect for her abilities as a musician" (Neil Slaven).

To say that Fernando Sor begat Kaki King takes a huge leap of faith. But that's what I'm asking you to do. Come with me. Who knew that Rossini and his wife both played guitar? Why were there so many artistic renderings done of women playing parlor and harp guitars in the centuries before the last one, yet there were so few women who actually played? Or did they? This much I know: It's So Over. This - "There are no girls/women/chicks (god help us) who play guitar." This - "Why are there no great female rock guitar players? Must be genetic." This is the eye opener, the Maiden Voyage, a glimpse at what's already been going on behind those not so closed doors. The sampler. The collection. Whatever you want to call it. There is more to come. Begin here. La Guitara, Volume One.

PATTY LARKIN/On the Outer Cape/August, 2005

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